Thursday, September 21, 2023

Versatile Blue Devils ready to compete

Despite returning three starters, Independence head coach Mike Marcinko enters the 2017-2018 season with a relatively youthful squad.

The fourth-year coach is optimistic but he also knows the Blue Devils will have to grow up fast if they hope to contend for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title.

“We need to keep youthful mistakes to a minimum and draw on the experience that we do have,” said Marcinko, who has guided the Blue Devils to a 43-29 record in his four years at the school. “This version of the Blue Devils should see the scoring spread around more between the players. We would like to be hard to guard and being able to get scoring from different players can help us do that.”

Marcinko’s returning starters include a senior and two sophomores.

Forward Hanah Walker averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds as a junior last season in earning honorable mention all-conference honors.

“Hanah is our leader this year,” Marcinko said. “She provides great stability for us statistically and in the locker room.”

Marcinko hopes sophomore guards Haylee Dmitruk and Riley Wilson build off their impressive varsity debuts.

Dmitruk averaged 7 points and 4 assists per game while Wilson scored 8 points and pulled down 5 rebounds per contest. Dmitruk also was named honorable mention all-CVC.

“Haylee is our floor general. Her vision and ball-handling skills make us go,” Marcinko said. “Riley has the ability to score inside and outside and will be counted on to do just that.”

Juniors Kaitlin Richards and Erica Esper are expected to round out the Independence starting lineup.

Richards, a center, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds last season while Esper scored 3 points and recorded 3 rebounds per game from her guard position last winter.

“Kaitlin fills a need at center and will be relied on to rebound and score in the paint,” Marcinko said. “Erica is a good shooter that has improved her floor game and has the ability to put up points in bunches.”

Junior Amy Ksiazka, sophomore Reni Kaiser and freshman Riccela DiGeronimo all provide depth at the guard position for Independence.

Kaiser averaged 3 rebounds and 4 steals per game while Ksazka recorded 4 steals per contest last year.

“This year we are more versatile by position,” Marcinko said. “We have players that can play multiple spots on the floor and we hope that can help us find mismatches that are in our favor.”

Independence’s recipe for success is simple.

“Take care of the ball and rebound,” Marcinko said.

The Blue Devils open the season at Columbia on Nov. 25.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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